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Free Content Cardiac autonomic characteristics in infants sleeping with their head covered by bedclothes

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The risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is increased in infants sleeping with their head covered by bedding items. This study was designed to evaluate cardiac autonomic nervous controls in infants sleeping with the head covered by bedclothes. Sixteen healthy infants with a median age of 12 weeks (range 9–13 weeks) were recorded polygraphically for one night. While they slept in their usual supine position, a bedsheet was placed over their head for about 45 min. All infants were challenged with the head covered and with the head free during both rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Sleep, breathing and heart rate (HR) characteristics were recorded simultaneously, together with rectal and pericephalic temperatures. In both head-free and head-covered conditions, autoregressive spectral analysis of HR was evaluated as a function of sleep stages. During the head-covered periods, parasympathetic tonus decreased and sympathetic activity increased in both REM and NREM sleep. Compared with the head-free periods, the head-covered sleep periods were characterized by greater rectal (P = 0.012) and pericephalic temperatures (P = 0.002). Covering the infant's head with a bedsheet was associated with significant changes in autonomic balance. The finding could be related to an elevation in temperatures within the infant's microenvironment.

Keywords: autonomic nervous system; bedding; infant; sleep; sudden infant death syndrome; temperature

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Pediatric Sleep Unit, University Children's Hospital, Brussels, Belgium, 2: Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium and 3: Medatec, Brussels, Belgium

Publication date: June 1, 2003


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